The Seneca County Board of Supervisors took a surprising step at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 10, passing a Rule 29, which resulted in significant debate and a possible new avenue for settling its ongoing dispute with the Cayuga Nation.
The supervisors heard from members of the Cayuga Nation, who railed against Clint Halftown’s federally-recognized leadership.
“When people commit treason in our circle, that person gets banished from all the people,” Sam George said, addressing the supervisors in the session intended to see Halftown speak. George is sachem chief of the Cayuga Nation’s Bear Clan, and addressed the supervisors as part of a broader effort to ignite discussion between the two entities. “He is no longer one of us,” George added, referring to Halftown by name just once during the meeting.
Supervisors said Halftown was invited to the meeting, but that claim was later refuted by the Nation’s federally recognized leader. While George encouraged the supervisors to work with the faction known as the Traditionalists, the group holds no legal power via the U.S. government.
To that end, allies of that faction sought out a new letter from the Board. Chairman Bob Hayssen, R-Varick, supported the notion. “I’m sure this board can write a fresh letter to the BIA stating that issue; we believe the clan mothers, the traditional chiefs should be leaders and recognized,” he said.
While Seneca County has been unsuccessful in its legal battles against the Cayuga Nation, those have largely involved land claims, rather than leadership-related issues.
Dylan Seneca, a Cayuga Nation member who is involved in a civil suit by the Nation to get back delinquent rent payments, urged the Board to avoid negotiating with Halftown.
“There is no negotiating with Clint Halftown,” Seneca said. “He’s all about power and money. That’s not our way of life. Like Sam [George] said, we’re all about peace, love, compassion, working together as one. The people are resistant against his fake council.”
Less than 48 hours after that session, Halftown responded, noting no meeting was missed.
“If and when I am invited to meet with representatives of Seneca County, I will do so upon appropriate terms, but to suggest that I failed to attend a meeting is simply untrue,” Halftown said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Nation’s federally recognized leadership group said the supervisors never invited Halftown.
“To date, no such invitation has been received,” Stagliano said. “To be perfectly clear, Clint Halftown was not invited to the most recent Board of Supervisors meeting, but looks forward to a formal, scheduled invitation to strengthen the relationship between Seneca County and the Cayuga Nation.”
For his part, Halftown said in the statement the County’s approach, in hearing from George and other disgruntled members of the Nation, reflects the broader issue at play.
“Moreover, and consistent with the communications our attorneys have exchanged with the County Attorney, it has been our understanding that the purpose of such a meeting would be to foster a better relationship with the County,” Halftown continued. “The County’s willingness to meet with individuals like Sam George, who does not speak for the Cayuga Nation or its members, suggests the County is not yet serious about establishing a positive government-to-government relationship and still is in denial about its failed strategy regarding the Nation and its reservation.”
The session on Tuesday did result in unanimous passage of a call for a new letter to be drafted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.